Arizona bill would require immigration checks in hospitals

The relevant legislator supports a similar measure in public schools

Topics: Arizona, hospitals, Health Care, Immigration, schools, health insurance, ,

Republicans have long claimed that there’s no such thing as an uninsured patient in America since anyone can just go to the emergency room for their health care. Sure that’s  inefficient and expensive, but a proposed Arizona law might reduce some of those costs by making clear to undocumented immigrants that they’re not welcome in the state’s hospitals at all.

The latest in the Arizona’s proud tradition of “up yours” legislation, H.B. 2293 would require that to would require hospitals to check the immigration status of patients and report undocumented patients to the authorities. Republican State Representative Steve Smith, who’s sponsoring the bill, said that it’s a way to gauge how much Arizona is spending on care for non-Americans:

The local ABC affiliate reported:

“That’s it, we don’t deny anybody, they don’t come in and not get treated, everything stays the same, we just want it documented,” said Smith.

Smith said his goal is to find out the amount of money hospitals spend to treat undocumented immigrants.

He later said that he has “no clue” about whether hospitals would enforce the law. It’s currently in the early stages of the legislative process but if it passed it would likely dissuade undocumented immigrants from seeking health care since their presence in the emergency room would trigger a call to the cops or feds.



“When does this begin or end?” asked Pete Wertheim of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association to the Arizona Daily Sun. “What other industry should be screening their customers for citizenship verification?”

We cannot detain them,” he said of those suspected of being illegal immigrants. And he said not every one of the 1.2 million uninsured in Arizona — people who would lack the evidence of valid health insurance that triggers what Smith’s bill would require — are here illegally.

Smith has also advocated for citizenship checks in public schools.

Alex Halperin is news editor at Salon. You can follow him on Twitter @alexhalperin.

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